However, there comes a point when writing is so egregiously bad, that an intervention must be staged. Such is the case with James Franco.
Now, I have always had a soft spot for Franco. I’m pulling for the guy. He seems like a good guy, he’s a hell of an actor, and I love that he does whatever the fuck he wants to do. We need more actors like him out there, unconcerned with climbing the weird Hollywood ladder in which starring in a Roland Emmerich movie is the pinnacle of success. I love that he took a role on General Hospital, just because he could. And I love that he put his career on hold for awhile to get an MFA in writing from Columbia. That is a very respectable, decent thing to do if you are interested in pursuing a career as a writer.
Franco is still in college, but unlike most people who are still pursuing their MFAs, he already has a book deal with Scribner. Because he has an amazing agent. Because he is James Franco. See how that works? But no snark: I’m still pulling for you. We all use our connections to get what we want. And if I had as many connections as James Franco, you can bet to fuck that I’d have the best agent in the world.
But here’s the thing: if the story he just published in Esquire magazine is any indication, James Franco does not deserve to have a book deal. I have no problem with someone using his celebrity to publish a book if he has worked his ass off and learned how to be a writer. But here’s a bit of cold reality that your friends and family and book agent-with-comical-dollar-signs-in-his-eyes will not tell you, Franco: you are not ready. Maybe if you keep writing for a few years, you’ll hone your craft. You are clearly not without ability. But you need more guidance than people seem willing to give you, and you need it NOW.
Since apparently Scribner cannot afford to hire editors, and apparently Columbia’s MFA program does not offer much instruction, here are a few tips from a guy who’s managed to successfully make ALMOST MORE THAN $20,000 PER YEAR for at least 5 years now. In other words: a professional.
All quotes taken from “Just Before the Black” by James Franco, published March 2010 in Esquire.
There is not much to talk about with Joe because he’s such a moron. I don’t know what he thinks he is, or why he thinks he exists. I guess in some lives lived, no one tells you what to be, and so you be nothing. In the olden days you were born into it, all decisions made, and you farmed until you died, or cleaned the royal toilets.
I guess they didn’t have toilets. Just stuck their asses out and shat in the moat. But someone had to wash out the hole.
“There is not much to talk about with Joe because he’s such a moron.” This is a very college-y sentence. It instantly stops us from having any interest in the character of Joe, and it makes the narrator sound like an asshole. Revise.
“I guess in some lives lived, no one tells you …” I see what you’re saying here, and it’s a somewhat interesting thought. But please take a few minutes and MAKE IT BETTER. Has no one ever told you to make it better? You need to make it better. First of all, “lives lived” — unnecessary construction that is not as poetic as you would like it to be. Second of all, “be nothing” … I know what you’re doing here, and it is not 1952, so please stop doing it. Third of all, there is nothing profound about this character’s thoughts about shitting in moats and you are therefore wasting our time by making us read them. Edit, please.
I am friends with a slug, and my other friends are pigs and wolves. I never make friends with nice things, just the shit.
First sentence: not great, but I’ll let it slide. Second sentence: what? You make friends with shit? This is the laziest sentence in the history of the English language. Revise.
He smiles with rotten teeth like busted shingles, all climbing over each other, and yellowing gray teeth next to shit-colored gums just don’t go together, and I think, Why don’t you get some braces motherfucker and brush those dang things, but I don’t really think about that too much because I’m thinking about something else, or at least getting ready to do something else, or already doing …
First of all, WHY ARE YOU HANGING AROUND WITH THIS GUY?!? He sounds really gross. Second of all, don’t tell us that you’re thinking about something in one breath and then that you’re not thinking about it in the next breath, particularly if the thing that you may or may not be thinking about is of no interest to anyone.
The building is beige, but the shadows make it shadow-color.
Okay, I actually kind of like this.
Ya’ know what? I have to stop this. I’m only a few paragraphs in and I can already see my entire day being wasted on this post. But here’s the situation: Franco, if you get this message, call me. You don’t want to look back on this book and cringe. And from what I’ve read so far, you WILL look back on this book and cringe.
Am I being too hard on you because you’re a celebrity? Maybe, but let’s remember why you got a book deal in the first place. You didn’t have to pay your dues. And if you’re going to circumvent the rules that the rest of us writers live by (boxes of rejection letters, constant anxiety about where our next dollar is coming from), then you’re going to have to accept a little public criticism. Good for you for trying to be a writer. But if you really want to be a writer, please try to have something to say and please try to say it better than this. Thank you!